Today, I woke up feeling drained and low on optimism — day #41 (I think, but I really try not to count) since a typical day, pre-“staying home” orders.
Staring at those words for a few moments …. well, how to top that statement? I’ve basically started this Wednesday morning in April 2020, with a very low threshold; minimally interested in even getting out of my room and looking for something to eat. In retrospect, this is the bottom of my ability to be inspired.
It’s all up from here. Hmmm… a positive thought! Must
run tread delicately with it and write!
Falling into a pit is nothing new for me. Depression has been a very familiar state of gloominess, over the years. My peak of depression was a few years ago, leading to hospitalization from self-harm. It was a debilitating season and recently, I had become confident that I was recovering well. I stopped taking antidepressants 3 months ago because I didn’t need them anymore — or do I?!? (There is zero shame in taking any sort of prescribed meds, by the way.)
So, falling back into a depressive funk isn’t unexpected for someone like me, during this truly horrible time of COVID-19’s exploitation of death and destruction. It causes the already-vulnerable to be even more damaged, more discouraged, more alone; with more pain, more bills, more tears, etc. Sad words that no one wants to hear or read, yet words I need to say.
Since early March (when the schools closed), I haven’t had the opportunity to be with my kids. For a mother of teenagers with an already unsatisfying and frustrating custodial arrangement, this has been testing-my-resilience and spirit-crushing in the extreme. While almost every mom I know has been at home with her kids, I’ve been the exception. For this former stay-at-home-mom of 4 kids, the pain of my current isolation has felt unbearable at times. Not wanting to make others feel uncomfortable or to solicit pity, I usually keep the sorrow to myself. Yet, should I? Maybe writing and sharing will alleviate some stress today and someone else’s, as well. Therefore, the risk of opening up is worth it. (Being gossiped about is a very insignificant care at this point, anyhow.)
When is it acceptable to share about personal discouragement? When you have good news (especially a “praise report”) — it’s always welcomed. There is pressure for Christians and people who claim to be ‘of faith’ to share positive stories only, because that’s how we were
programmed strongly encouraged to feel. Anyone my age or older, who was “churched” in a similar environment, likely remembers this phrase: “I am blessed and highly favoured.” Yet, is this an example of bad theology? That’s a topic for another day …
There is a fear of projecting weakness, unless you are legitimately seeking support and understanding. One of my dearest friends passed away earlier this year from cancer, yet she also battled depression for many years. She was my fellow-sufferer, my safe place to vent, with an ear to listen and a heart to accept all I had to offer in a 25-year friendship. She told me last fall (not knowing she would eventually succumb) that cancer was easier to deal with than her depression. She felt that a cancer diagnosis brought more understanding, more friends, more courage and resources. In contrast, depression was a wasteland of misunderstanding and misery. In fact, the cancer was her secondary disease — longterm depression can cause a myriad of health problems, like being more susceptible to free radicals killing off healthy cells. I’ve done enough research to know the absolute hell of depression and how it destroys human beings, much more than just mentally or psychologically. Going through it and feeling like it’s returning is like torment that can’t be adequately explained.
As I spend these moments of self-isolation apart from my children, with temporary accommodations that I’ve appreciated, I have time to think, to pray/cry out to God, to meditate (trying to practice mindfulness), to read things that inspire and inform me, to watch and participate in live streams, live chats, FaceTime and phone calls, etc. These things keep me connected and sane (as much as is possible during this time). I appreciate every warm point of human connection. Thank you for offering that to me, if you’ve been one of those warm-hearted souls.
Sometimes it helps me to keep in mind that others have it a lot worse than I do. Despite how badly I’m missing my family, some people don’t have anyone to share their feelings with, or are grieving lost loved ones, ravaged by this disease. Many families have multiple cases of COVID-19 and each hour is a life-or-death battle. Such excruciating terror for these people, who do not deserve this unending nightmare.
Even though I’ve had no one to hug me or to be a giver of hugs for about 6 weeks (at this point), there are incarcerated people who don’t know if they will ever be held again, loved again, or to have the ability to step out of their institutions. Some of them are experiencing false imprisonment and are battling the coronavirus, while isolated. Can there be a more cruel situation?
One way I’ve dealt with the harsh blows of depression over the years, has been to seek out the pain of others. To share in their grief. To listen to their stories. To empathize. When I adjust my lens, in light of the suffering of others, I can face my own troubles easier and with more compassion for myself. Despite my personal failures that contributed to the bouts of depression, I can choose to apply a balm to all of my hurting places. Sometimes the balm needs re-applying, often.
This is how it is with managing soul-crushing losses that cause you to feel like you’re possibly going insane, especially during this pandemic season. You may lose your business, your house, your once-thriving relationship may crumble, your vacation(s), your savings, friends, relatives, other loved ones, etc. Who is guaranteed a comfortable living, here on earth? Who gets to experience a life that’s free of suffering and inconvenience?
I have actively engaged in news watching since I was a teenager. Real news. Propaganda, hype, conspiracy theories and other such nonsense can stay far away from my intellect. I care about the things that are really happening and I pay attention to credible sources giving trajectories about what can be expected. Even though I grew up in a “Bible Belt” and know many people who seem consumed with so-called prophetic words and fear mongering tactics, I’m just trying to keep my head up and feel like I have enough common sense to believe my soul is connected to the Light. There is peace for me, in that context … and it is enough, for this moment.
Philippians 4:7 (NIRV) Then God’s peace will watch over your hearts and your minds because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood.